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Ferguson gave Nick Moss the blues -- and inspiration for a new song
When he makes music, Nick Moss tries "to distance myself from negative and (bad) news." But the recent events in Ferguson, Mo., inspired the contemporary blues artist from Chicago to write and record a new song, "Shade Tree," to reflect on the controversy.
But Moss says it's more than just another protest anthem about racism and police brutality.
"I happened to read this article in the Washington Post, and it mentioned a quote from Dick Gregory years ago," says Moss, 45. "He had grown up in St. Louis, and they asked him why racial tensions had never boiled over there before and his answer was, 'We've got shade trees' -- which was a little tongue-in-cheek but I understood immediately what he was saying
"So I wanted this song to be about how too many people have actions first, rather than thoughts. We all have to live together and allow the cooler heads to prevail. I don't know any other way to do it. So i just wanted it to be a simple sentiment -- This is our home. This is where we live. You got neighbors who don't look like you, but we've have to learn to get along, man. I don't know any other way to put it."
Playing alongside other blues artists such as Buddy Scott, Jimmy Dawkins and Jimmy Rogers, meanwhile, Moss says he received a vivid education in race relations that lets him empathize with the feelings of those in Ferguson, as well as New York and Cleveland this fall.
"Most of my time has been with black artists, and it was an eye-opening experience for me as a young man going on the road with these guys," Moss recalls. "I grew up in white suburban neighborhoods, but I spent a good portion of my teens and early 20s immersed in black culture and going out with these guys and seeing how they were treated. You could see it in people's faces or hear it in their voices that they were uncomfortable dealing with a black man.
"It really opened my eyes to that kind of stuff. It's obvious we're not past it. We're not near as past it as a lot of us thought we were, and I think we're seeing that even more with all the stuff that's gone on this year."
Moss is planning to finish his next album, the follow-up to this year's "Time Ain't Free," in January. And despite "Shade Tree's" socio-political underpinnings, he's taking a different kind of tact, but still one with some resonance.
"The songs are about being inspired to just try to live a more positive life," he says. "As I get older and my daughter gets older -- she's 11 -- she's starting to see and make a connection that it's not just Disney World out there, y'know? She's starting to see things and hear things, and she's asking questions.
"So I want to show my gratefulness and show my positivity towards the beautiful things in life and the things that actually matter so that my daughter grows up thinking that, yeah, there's some (messed) up (stuff) out there, but I don't have to dwell on that or be part of that. I can do good things that make this world better. That's my focus now."
The Nick Moss Band
8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 19.
Callahan's Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills.
Tickets are $15 and $12.
Call 248-858-9508 or visit www.atcallahans.com.
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